Social media is starting to play an increasingly large role in the course of events on terrestrial television. And according to a new report from media research firm Futurescape, Facebook and Twitter will soon be battling it out over multi-billion dollar TV ad budgets.

As television and digital merge, social services like Facebook and Twitter are in a unique position to vie for users’ attention on the (slightly) bigger screen.

In Social
TV: How Facebook, Twitter and connected television transform global TV
advertising, pay TV, EPGs and broadcastin
g, Futurescape outlines the ways that the competition between Facebook and Twitter for Social TV relevance will shape the 21st century television industry.

Already, social media is having an increasing affect on TV ratings. If these services were more
closely intertwined with TV shows in real-time, they could be an
excellent supplement for networks and brands.

As Vizio co-founder Ken Lowe points out in the study, the distinction between different screens is rapidly shrinking:

“We are witnessing the demise
of television, new technologies are going to take over, television is
being replaced by the entertainment display.”

Futurescape says that Facebook aims to tap the $180 billion worldwide TV ad market, and that services like Google TV and
other connected TV systems will soon put Facebook and Twitter targeted ads on
TV screens.

Interestingly, Futurescape pegs this as a fight between two of the largest social media companies, rather than an opportunity for multiple digital businesses to win space on TV.

Futurescape estimates that global pay TV will be a $250 billion business by 2014, and will need social recommendation and discovery services to survive. Another issue is that social networks provide a real time guage of reactions to TV programming, which could become an essential supplement to Nielsen-type viewing data.

Of course, there’s the possibility that digital TV has space for both companies, but it’s interesting in light of some news out this week.

Twitter revealed that it is now the fastest growing search engine out there, handling 800 million search queries per day. That’s over 24 billion
searches per month, which ends up being more than Bing (4.1 billion) and Yahoo (9.4
billion) combined.

It’s still tiny in comparison to Google, which handles around 88 billion search queries per month,  but especially significant considering how little of the business’ attention is now devoted to search (and how low the quality of Twitter search currently delivered).

According to Biz Stone, the company’s cofounder, Twitter isn’t a social network:

“We’re much more like an information network or a source of news.”

That’s especially significant in regards to porting social content to television sets. Twitter may have a smaller global reach than Facebook, but it’s tailored focus could also be more efficient for that purpose.

Meanwhile, according to Inside Facebook today, Facebook usage among people 18-44 dropped last month, with about 175,000
fewer active users aged 26-34 on the site in June. Also, overall growth in the U.S. was minimal last month.

Of course, Facebook’s usership numbers are far from percipitous. Just this week, a new survey found that large numbers of women consider themselves “Facebook

In order to avoid the social network curse of irrelevance, Facebook has to maintain its high amount of stickiness. The site has been adding new features — like Facebook Connect — to maintain relevance. But it will have to prove its utility for television shows if it wants to dominate this hypothetical, future digital TV market. Facebook definitely has the user advantage right now, but it will be interesting to see how implementation carries out in this area going forward.